The likely lads return with their first album in 11 years, but is it a Libs classic?
Live review: Girls/Frankie & The Heartstrings/Sharks
Scala, London, Tuesday, February 23
Like stirring and solid Gaslight Anthem-ish Leamington Spa punkers Sharks, though, at least they’re busting with confidence. Now there’s a word we didn’t think we’d be using in the same paragraph as tonight’s headliners Girls, who, when we last saw them play four months back, were hunched-up balls of crippling awkwardness, brilliant yet wincing to be serenading their bedroom walls instead. So when ‘Laura’ – now swelling with full-blown harmonies and rainbows of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’-esque keyboards from new member Matthew Kallman – tears open the set, flutters of joy bound about the sardined crowd.
A huge drum-walloping intro to ‘Morning Light’, frontman Chris Owens’ Elvis Costello-croons and unabashed declaration that new track ‘Lysandre’ is “the best I’ve ever written” affirm that the San Fran oddballs have finally fully grown into their own songs.
Yet, they continue to convey that fragile anguish and nerdy charm for which we initially fell. They’re still white and pasty, and that lump sticks to the back of Owen’s throat when he sings the heart-wrenching ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ lyric: “I don’t want to cry my whole life through”. The crowd wail along, a boy behind us laments: “I put this on a mixtape for my ex” and Owen begins to slowly but surely fall into line beside the likes of Jarvis Cocker as a true outcast and genius frontman.
As the set wraps up, bassist Chet JR White whacks his tongue hard into his cheek and bursts out: “We’re not nominated for an NME Award but The Big Pink, er, really deserve it.” Catty? Yes. Unnecessary? Certainly. But if anyone deserves to be a little bit cocky for once, it’s this lot.
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